What’s the first thing you do each morning? I’ll be honest, before I can even think about starting to work I have to check my social media. It’s part of my routine: Get a cup of tea, settle down in my office, fire up the laptop and see what the world’s been up to while I slept. And I know I’m not unique.

Social media has completely changed how we all communicate and share information. Not just on a personal level, but on a professional one as well. So while I may wish someone “Happy Birthday” on Facebook, I’m also clicking on the latest article posted by that company whose products or services I admire. Sometimes I find it interesting enough to open and read, and sometimes I don’t. Which brings me to my point:

Social media is changing how companies practice public relations. 

With so many social channels available to share information and communicate with our audience, it’s imperative that we not only take advantage of the mediums, but also have a plan in place to optimize public relations through social media.

A few tips I found:

Make it a conversation: Social media is not a billboard; it’s not the place to simply throw information at your audience. Take advantage of the two-way communication available through social media to really listen to your audience, make connections and respond to their needs.

Use it as a tool: Social media offers a wealth of information about your customers and potential customers. You can access this information, for example using keyword searches on Twitter, and respond with a helpful resource in real time. That’s a value your audience can’t and won’t ignore.

Be prepared: I know I’ve said this in every post, but a social media crisis plan is a MUST. Social media allows us to respond to customer needs more quickly, but the immediacy of it also means bad news travels fast and the ability for two-way conversation also means a risk of negative feedback. Develop a plan before a crisis and your response is more likely to be well-informed and helpful.

What about you? How are you incorporating social media into your public relations plan? Have you seen a company doing this really well?